Music A Level at St Olave's Grammar School
The Faculty follows the Edexcel specification at A-level. The full A-level course offers a three-unit programme across the two years of study, based on performance, composition and the analysis of music. The same broad disciplines are also assessed at AS level, again in three units, to be completed after one year.
The recitals will take place in the spring term in the year of certification, approximately six months after starting the AS programme or eighteen months after the start of the A-level programme. The “standard” level of difficulty for AS-level Music is considered to be Grade 6 or equivalent, with Grade 5 level described as “Less Difficult” and Grade 7+ as “More Difficult”. For A-level Music, the “standard” is set at Grade 7 or equivalent. Assessment takes the form of a solo recital-style performance of a minimum of six minutes for AS-level and eight minutes for A-level, which students should prepare in conjunction with their instrumental or vocal teachers.
Students will encounter a number of compositional styles and techniques and will complete exercises aimed at developing their ability to compose ideas quickly. For both AS and A-level, two items are developed for assessment: firstly, a free interpretation of one of a selection of given composition briefs, produced over a number of curriculum lessons; secondly, a shorter composition designed to highlight the understanding of compositional techniques, again selected from a set of contrasting topics. Throughout, students will have access to compositional software, especially Sibelius, to assist their work. A score and a recording of the composition are expected for the final two submissions, which, for the AS course, together must total a minimum of four minutes and thirty seconds; for the A-level, the two items must reach a minimum of six minutes.
Analysing and appraising music
Set works form the basis of musical analysis for both programmes. The musical features of these pieces will be studied during the course and a detailed level of description and interpretation of these features is assessed through students’ responses to essay questions. Students are expected to draw comparisons across cultures and time periods. The works are grouped into six categories which represent a broad range of traditions: vocal music, instrumental music, music for film, popular music and jazz, fusions and new directions in music.
The assessment of listening skills will form part of the written paper, where students respond to a combination of familiar and unfamiliar musical extracts. The same six categories provide the context for the selected examples. Some of the questions will relate to the set works. The music for the other questions will relate in some key areas to one or more of the set works. A greater level of detail will be expected from those pursuing the A-level course, after two years of teaching, compared to those sitting the AS-level exam.
For entry to either programme, at least an A in GCSE Music is required. Students must also have at least a pass at Grade 6 on an instrument/voice and commit to receiving regular and ongoing professional instrumental/vocal tuition. Students will confirm whether they will be sitting AS or continuing to A-Level in the first half of Year 12.
The subject fosters a wide range of important transferable skills, including analysis, presenting, critical evaluation, communication, personal reflection, self-discipline and teamwork. Careers stemming from the study of Music are innumerable, because of
the value of these desirable qualities. The list below highlights some of the obvious paths directly related to Music as a subject, and also some which place importance on those key skills rather than subject content:
• Professional instrumentalist or singer
• Classroom music teacher
• Regional music service (e.g. educational consultant)
• Peripatetic music teacher
• Events organiser/ hospitality
Options timetable permitting, students can include Music A-level amongst any combination of other subjects and, as such, Music students are in no way precluded from going on to pursue any specialisms, indeed the creativity involved is often highly prized in a wide range of professions. Other than reading Music itself, former A-level Music students have also progressed to universities (including Oxbridge and Russell Group) to read:
• Natural Sciences
Visits and trips take place on an availability basis, according to the educational programmes offered by London-based professional orchestras. These include seminars, workshops and masterclasses, often involving the Edxcel set study works. Additionally, the Faculty will take students to an evening concert in order to encourage them to attend live music performances by professional musicians.
How to apply
If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact St Olave's Grammar School directly.